By William Wolf


It is especially painful to lose such a respected and valued colleague as Andrew Sarris, the all-important critic who died recently. Andy shook up American film criticism when he followed French critics and promulgated the auteur theory that the director of a film should be considered an author just as we consider the writer of a book an author. Sarris inspired a whirlwind of discussion and cultural warfare among film buffs and beyond.

Andy was always congenial whenever we had contact, and no matter what disagreements we may have had over a film—and there always are disagreements among critics—he was gentlemanly in our discussions. One knew how deeply he loved films, and he viewed them from his honest perspective. Sarris was nothing less than a giant in the field of criticism and widely recognized as a unique voice whether reviewing a film or writing a book. Nobody wrote like Andy.

His wife, Molly Haskell, has towered in her own right as a writer, and they made a terrific couple, each giving strong support to the other. Molly was particularly devoted in the final years of Andy’s illness. I always thought that they would have made a great husband-and-wife team in a television film critic show—“Movies with Andy and Molly,” as it might have been called, or the other way around. It would have been much more intelligent than any of the others on the air.

Andy’s articles, reviews and books epitomize the growth of film criticism as an art form, and he also left his mark as a professor who surely influenced the many students privileged to take his classes, first at New York University and later at Columbia University.

After his long career as film critic at the Village Voice, the New York Observer gave him a prime continued venue and that is where he reviewed in the last stage of his luminous career.

It hurts to say goodbye to Andy as a colleague and acquaintance. But there is no goodbye to his provocative and seminal work. That will live on in the archives for those who want to learn what film criticism was about in the last half of the 20th Century and into the 21st.


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